Welcome to our new series: North Carolina Icons! Inspired by Our State magazine’s 100 North Carolina Icons, we’re going through their NC to-do list to recommend books for each icon. We want to enhance your journey through North Carolina, whether you take the books with you on your travels or read them at home to learn about North Carolina. The State Library of North Carolina has also gone through the checklist and provided links and resources that will help you begin checking off icons. Keep an eye on our NC icons tag as we post weekly recommendations.
We start our series with icon number one: the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our State says, “Travel any one of the Parkway’s 252 North Carolina miles and you’re guaranteed a beautiful drive.” We have three different books that will help you explore the Blue Ridge Parkway in three different ways:
Walking the Blue Ridge: A Guide to the Trails of the Blue Ridge Parkway by Leonard M. Adkins is a classic Parkway trail guide that includes hikes for every skill and interest level, from five-minute “leg-stretchers” to overnight hikes. Veteran hiker Leonard M. Adkins describes every one of the more than 100 official Blue Ridge Parkway walking trails along with every other trail (more than 70) that comes in contact with the Parkway. He details each walk, noting exact length, points of interest, and natural features.
While you’re out hiking, check out some of the local birds with Marcus B. Simpson Jr.’s Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains: A Guide for the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smokey Mountains, Shenandoah National Park, and Neighboring Areas. In this detailed guide to the best birding localities, Simpson describes more than three hundred sites, including recreation areas, overlooks, campgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking trails. For each site, he lists the species most likely to be seen as well as rare birds that the persistent birder might find; he includes notes on the plant life and geography of each site and provides information on highway access and accommodations as well as accessibility for the handicapped.
If you’re looking to learn more about the history of the Blue Ridge Parkway, try Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History by Anne Whisnant. The most visited site in the National Park system, the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway winds along the ridges of the Appalachian mountains in Virginia and North Carolina. According to most accounts, the Parkway was a New Deal “Godsend for the needy,” built without conflict or opposition by landscape architects and planners who traced their vision along a scenic, isolated southern landscape. The historical archives relating to this massive public project, however, tell a different and much more complicated story, which Anne Mitchell Whisnant relates in this revealing history of the beloved roadway.
Let us know how your travels go and share your favorite parts about visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway! (Coming up next: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.)